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Local Girl Scouts Raise Awareness of Hunger and Homelessness in RI


Warwick, RI — Two Girl Scouts spent 24 hours fasting and living in cardboard boxes to get an up-close look at the plight of hungry and homeless Rhode Islanders, and built a Silver Award project — signifying the second-highest achievement for Girl Scouts — recounting their experiences.

Julia Gervais and Brooke Messier, both 14, whose troop is part of the Girl Scouts of Southeastern New England headquartered in Warwick, also volunteered at the Rhode Island Food Bank and area food pantries, which “really opened my eyes because hunger and homelessness are so much bigger than I originally believed they were,” as Gervais wrote in her report.

On Sept. 28, Gervais and Messier will present their project, which also includes the YouTube video linked above, to the Silver Award Committee.

Students at Exeter-West Greenwich High School, the girls understood early on that living in the rural area, “people we know in our community didn’t truly understand how close to home the issue really is, and that it is a year-round problem, not just near the holidays or when it’s cold out,” wrote Gervais, who with Messier created the Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Project of Rhode Island, or HHAP.

The Girl Scouts went outside their communities — to St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in East Greenwich, Project Undercover in Johnston, and CrossroadsRI in Providence — to deliver the 563 items they collected during their “homeless day” and serve the people who use those services for everyday nutrition.

The inspiration for the 24-hour “sleep out” and food collection in front of West Greenwich Town Hall began when Gervais and members of her church voluntarily fasted for 30 hours.

“While accomplishing this, we learned a lot of eye-opening information on homelessness and hunger in our own community,” explained Gervais. “We were surprised at the number of people who are not able to provide for themselves and their families.”

Gervais wrote that the girls also learned some sobering statistics in the course of their project — one in every seven Rhode Island children lives in poverty, and a family of four needs an annual income of $98,000 to cover basic food, shelter, and utility costs.

“I didn’t know how many people really were here in my community, struggling with this problem [even my own family at times] and it honestly shocked me,” Gervais wrote. As a result, Gervais and Messier explained that they hope to continue collecting food and necessities for the hungry and homeless year-round, and use their video to bring new attention to the issue because “it was fresh and new, yet local, and the awareness portion of our project might sink in with many as something ‘new to them.'”

Joe Hutnak -
Author: Joe Hutnak - [email protected]

Co-Founder and Editor-at-Large of Warwick Post. For Warwick Post-related inquiries or communications, email [email protected]

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